Drifting Apart Happens Even in the Best Relationships—Here’s How to Get Back on Track

Photo: Getty Images/Charday Penn
Drifting apart is an inevitable phase of most relationships, everyone from your childhood friend to, yes, the person you've put down roots with romantically. As painful as that can be, it makes sense: People change, they start new jobs, they confront various family-related challenges, they start to feel restless—the list goes on. Suddenly, connecting with the one who's supposed to be closest to you can feel like the most difficult challenge of them all.

Just because that connection isn’t there at the moment doesn’t mean all hope is lost, though. In fact, reconnecting with your partner might feel like an insurmountable challenge, but is a lot easier than you probably think, experts say. One of the first steps is understanding why you haven’t been feeling as close with them. While there isn’t always a clear-cut answer, when it comes to romantic relationships, it can just be a consequence of those initial heart-eye-emoji feelings wearing off.

“People get stuck in these unresolved power struggles, and rather than go over the same old thing again and again, they move apart." —Linda Carroll, MS, LMFT

“In the beginning, when everything is easy and people are under love’s spell, they want to hear everything their partner has to say and want to know everything they can about this mysterious other person,” explains Linda Carroll, MS, LMFT. “Then, as the chemistry fades, they stop asking and begin to assume they know how their partner feels, thinks, and will react—and so they stop listening.”

When this happens, we start to prioritize other things over our partner. “Let’s face it: Life gets busy,” says Carroll. “Something is always being sacrificed, whether it’s working out, hanging with friends, a good book you want to read. People start to assume their relationship will be fine even if they don’t put time and effort into it. This simply isn’t true.”

Another thing that causes couples to drift apart? Unresolved conflict. “People get stuck in these unresolved power struggles, and rather than go over the same old thing again and again, they move apart and become more and more remote and even indifferent,” Carroll explains.

While reigniting that spark with your S.O. is far from impossible, it does require dedication. Here are a few tips for how to reconnect with your spouse or partner.

1. Carve out time on the calendar

While putting time for connection on the calendar may feel like the least romantic thing ever, it’s critical to getting the job done. “Start by making time for each other every week, and do not take that date off the calendar under any circumstances except a true emergency,” suggests Carroll.

2. Put away your phone

Trust us: Your Instagram feed can wait. Once you’ve made time to connect, put away those phones and start talking. “Think about how the two of you talked when you first got together,” says Carroll. “You asked questions, you shared anecdotes about your day. So do this again. Find things to do that are new and different: Concerts, talks, hikes, movies, dog shows—it doesn’t matter what it is. Just get to know this person all over again.”

3. Spend time NOT talking

While there’s a time and place for talking, when it comes to reconnecting with your romantic partner, touch is just as crucial. “Hold each other for three minutes, spoon in bed in the morning or watch a movie and hold hands, even if it feels strange and disconnected,” Carroll advises. “Your bodies may remind you how to find one another before your minds do.”

4. Use technology to your advantage

While scrolling on date night won’t get you anywhere fast, there are ways to use technology to your advantage when you’re working on reconnecting with your spouse. “Send each other emails throughout the day, send sweet (or sexy) texts, remind your partner about a really great time the two of you had together,” says Carroll.

5. Remember that there’s always something to appreciate

Even if you’re not feeling particularly close to your partner at the moment, appreciation is crucial to getting back to a positive place with him or her. “I can’t tell you how many couples I have sat with who avoid looking at one another at first, and when I finally get them to voice their appreciation, their whole bodies soften,” says Carroll.

Long story short? Reconnecting with your spouse is hardly as difficult as it may seem when you first set off to try to make it happen. So schedule a date night, send a few sexts, and watch that connection blossom.

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